What is a Balk in Baseball?

A game, fair or unfair, is never accomplished without rules. Rules are what make a game even more exciting in life as well as on the field. Rules, definitely rule the roost! Now talking of rules, if you balk the rules, it is no good. Interestingly in baseball there is a rule referred to as balk. Those who are baseball fans and follow the game closely, they definitely would be having a fair idea of what is a balk. But for those who do not know about it or kids who have just started playing baseball, the text to follow will explain what is a balk in baseball.

What is a Balk?

Simply put, a balk refers to an unacceptable action in a baseball game, mostly in connection with pitching and it is one of the baseball fundamentals. In other words, you can also call it a foul. A balk calls for a penalization in a game. Interestingly, it had got a mention going way back in Alexander Cartwright‘s Knicker Bocker Rules in the year 1845. However, it was not defined as to what exactly is a ‘Balk’. The definition came later.

One of the definitions of balk given in 1884 in Playing Rules of the American Association of Baseball Clubs is:

 “A motion made by the pitcher to deliver the ball to the bat without delivering it, except the ball be accidentally dropped, or the ball be held by the pitcher so long as to delay the game unnecessarily, or any motion to deliver the ball, or the delivering of the ball to the bat by the pitcher when any part of his person is upon ground outside the lines of his position. When after being once warned by the umpire, the pitcher continues to deliver the ball with his hand passing above his shoulder.” Now this seems too unwieldy, even though the explanation is fairly simple, right? No problem, we have a strike here! Coming up is bit more detail on what is a balk in baseball, the actions considered as balk and understanding the balk rule in baseball!

Actions and Rules for a Balk in Baseball

Most of the times, the poor pitcher is at the helm of affairs when it comes to balk. It revolves around the pitching positions and a specific set of movements for the pitcher. A violation of those pitching position and baseball rules and movements results in a balk. The following conditions explain what is a balk –

  1. If the pitcher changes his pitching position from the windup to the set or the other way round without disengaging the rubber in the correct manner, it is a balk.
  2. On the rubber, when the pitcher makes a motion as if he is going to pitch and does not get on and finish the delivery.
  3. From the stretch to the set position, the pitcher’s failure to make a complete stop with hands together prior to initiating the pitch
  4. A throw from the mound to a base without stepping toward and covering distance in the direction of that base by pitcher is a balk.
  5. When a pitcher steps or feints or does a deceptive movement from the mound to first base sans finishing the throw.
  6. In case the pitcher delivers with the intention of catching the batter off-guard or defenseless, that is what is a balk in baseball.
  7. Mimicking a part of pitching motion while not in contact with the rubber by the pitcher is penalized.
  8. An unnecessary delay of the game by pitcher.
  9. Pitches by the pitcher facing away from the batter are unacceptable.
  10. A throw by the pitcher to first when the first baseman is not able to make a play on the runner there because of the distance from the base.

This is what is primarily included in the term balk in baseball. The whole objective of this rule is to prevent the pitcher from deceiving or confusing the batter. So it becomes an important part of the discussion on how to play baseball. Of course, there are other ways to do it, like particular types of baseball pitches and other things, but they are within the legalities of the game. Balk, however, is accountable to penalty. A common misconception, though, about the balk is that a pitcher has to step off the rubber prior to doing a pick-off. The actual deal is that a pitcher can pitch, throw to a base which is not occupied and eventually can step off while he is still in contact with the rubber.